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Imerys Marathon

By Dan Alsop

3rd June 2013

It was 6.30am, it was cloudy, it was time for breakfast and perhaps optimistically, I already smelt of sunscreen.

An hour or so later I arrived at the college and as I came through the door I spotted the cake stand. I could see I was going to have to get back quickly as I definitely wanted to sample some of those before they ran out! Soon the normal pre-marathon routine ensued; "how's your training had been going?", "have you done this one before?", "how many gels are you taking?", all interspersed with multiple toilet trips and generally trying to forget that I was about to run 26 miles.

Suddenly it was time for the off. It started with one lap around the college and I was already having to work hard to stay in contact with last year's winner, Noel Kindon. I was glad that I did because when we came past the start again the brass band started playing, there was an announcer on the PA and a big crowd of supporters which was really inspiring!

Almost as soon as we left sight of the start/finish I dropped back as the pace was too quick for me and I knew I'd only gone off fast for the initial boost of running past everyone as part of the lead group! By about half way up to the Carclaze Noel had already got quite a good lead and I figured that it was going to be a long and lonely race. However, as I got to the top I was surprised to see Noel stopped and waiting for me to catch up! Not your typical race tactic, but he had also figured that it would be very tough to race for 3 hours by ourselves so thought he'd wait so that we could run together early on.

It was good to have the company, though it was somewhat worrying how strong he was on the hills. He regularly built a gap that I would have to close again at the top where he would slow down a bit, and we soon settled into this routine. I've raced and trained with Noel quite a bit in the past so it was good to be able to catch up when I wasn't trying to chase him up a hill!

The route was breathtaking. The sun had come out, justifying the sun-cream, and the views were stunning. It was a truly bizarre feeling running on a 'dirt-road' as wide a dual carriage way with only one other person and the lead cyclists. With big white hills surrounding us and brightly coloured lakes around every turn, it felt other-worldly. I wouldn't have been surprised to see an Ewok fly past!

I was enjoying the route and the support from the marshals was great. It was wonderful to see so many familiar faces all along the route and they were all really encouraging to both of us. Noel and I stayed running together until about 12 miles when he opened a gap on a long hill and rather than slow down again he decided to push on. I was feeling OK still, but just didn't want to push any harder than I already was so I just kept going at the same sort of effort.

Noel was still in sight at half way, but by mile 15 I couldn't see him any more and I ended up having a quick (internal) talk with myself which went something like this....

-Er....why did you let him go?

- Because I was tired and he was too strong on the hills

- But you've been aiming for this race, do you want to give up without trying properly?

-Not really, but it's hot and I don't want to blow up at the end

-So you're planning on giving up so you don't blow up?

- Yes, but it doesn't sound so good when you put it like that

-Then do something about it!

-oh.... OK

So about mile 16 I really started to push and I eventually caught Noel again just before mile 20. By this stage we were catching some of the half marathoners so we were getting support from them as we ran past which provided a welcome boost. When I'd caught Noel I decided to try and go straight past him, and kept pushing on. Every so often I'd glance behind but he was only ever about 40-50m back. Damn... He must have been going through a bad patch that he had now recovered from, and we still had 10km to run!

I couldn't get the gap any bigger and I knew the last hill was a brute from previous club runs. This didn't look good in view of Noel's hill climbing today. I decided my best bet was to just get up it and then run hard off the top. Near the summit I allowed myself a quick peek and the gap had remained the same – Yes!

I really pushed off the top and down the hill the other side. By this stage I was well and truly knackered, but I managed to get to the finish in the lead and get the win!

AND.....there was still a fantastic selection of cakes left. I can definitely recommend the fruit cake and the cherry chocolate muffins! I followed up these treats with a massage that meant I was able to walk normally the next day (a pleasant surprise for me the day after a marathon).

I really enjoyed the race. The route was amazing, as was the marshalling, and the organisation was as brilliant as ever. It was one of the toughest marathons I've done as it was almost all off road and relentlessly hilly. But it is definitely on my 'to do again' list.

Thanks STARC for doing such a magnificent job of putting on another great race.